International / Professional Life

Oh, the Places You’ll Go (with your MLIS)!

Did you know your ALA-accredited master’s degree is accepted in countries other than the good ole USA? That’s right, the US is not the only place where you can use your ALA-accredited master’s degree to work in a library. As Laura explained in her post on becoming an international school librarian, you can take your degree and work in an international school overseas. But have you considered working in a public or academic library in another country? If not, you should! In addition to being an exciting adventure — what could be more fun than working in a foreign library? — it’s also a great way to build goodwill between people of different countries. I’ve done a little digging and found several countries where you could go and put your degree to use right away, and others that might need a little more work, such as learning another language. Below are some brief examples of places you can go.

Places where no additional qualifications or knowledge are required

Australia

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) has a reciprocal recognition agreement with the ALA. Under this reciprocal arrangement, American graduates of ALA-accredited master’s degrees are eligible for ALIA Associate (librarian) membership and may apply for positions advertised at librarian level in Australia.

New Zealand

The Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) accepts the ALA-accredited masters degree in New Zealand, as it is a considered a sister organization.

United Kingdom

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has a reciprocal agreement with the ALA. This allows graduates holding American bachelor’s and master’s degrees in library and information sciences to apply for jobs asking for qualified librarians and information professionals in the UK.

Ireland

The Library Association of Ireland recognizes library and information qualifications from sister associations, especially the ALA. Each overseas qualification is considered on a case by case basis. Ireland may soon have a formal agreement with ALA. Recently, the only LIS school in Ireland (University College Dublin) has had its courses formally recognized by ALA because the Library Association of Ireland accredits their courses.

Canada

The Canadian Library Association (CLA) accepts the ALA definition of what constitutes a professional qualification: “The master’s degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association (or from a master’s level program in library and information studies accredited or recognized by the appropriate national body of another country) is the appropriate professional degree for librarians.”

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Library Association accepts a master’s degree from an ALA-accredited program. Click on this link to the Hong Kong Libraries Gateway, which includes a directory of over 600 libraries in Hong Kong: http://dir.hkla.org/.

Singapore

Singapore accepts an ALA-accredited masters degree if an American student is interested in working in a library in Singapore. In fact, Singapore sends some of their librarians to the USA to obtain the professional degree. No additional training is required. The only thing is that the library must apply for an employment pass for a foreigner to work in the organization from the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore before he or she could start work.

Places where you may need to learn a new language or jump through a few more hoops

Germany

According to the Berufsverband Information Bibliothek (BIB), in Germany, the more important issues are that the graduate fits into the working place, has an understanding of the German language, and that the library is interested in getting him or her for that particular job than it is where he or she comes from.

There is an other good opportunity for graduates and experienced colleagues: The BIB-ALA: German-U.S. Librarian Exchange. ALA and BIB signed an agreement to help each members in finding exchange libraries for professional exchanges. So if you are interested, just fill out the questionnaire.

Denmark

It is possible that Danish Libraries would accept graduates from the USA, but only when they have the right job to offer to the person. Also, the language is a barrier. Danish Public libraries will require fluent Danish speaking from their employees, and Danish can be a very difficult language to learn.

Finland

In Finland there are regulations concerning the training of personnel working in library services. This means that in order to work as a qualified librarian, you would need to apply for a decision from the Finnish National Board of Education. However, a formal decision is not necessary for a person to be able to work for a short period in a Finnish library.

Recognition of qualifications is always made on a case-by-case basis. For this reason, they cannot guarantee a certain decision in advance or give a definitive assessment of which Finnish qualification a specific foreign qualification corresponds to, nor is there a list explaining the equivalence of qualifications completed in different countries. The prerequisite is always that the person is qualified to work in library services in his/her country of origin, and that the degree and the degree awarding higher education institution are both accredited and a part of the official higher education system of the country.

Belgium

An ALA-accredited student will always be strongly considered by any American company located in Belgium. Regarding public libraries, unpaid placements are always possible (depending on the language level of the students) but a professional hiring would be difficult as one of the main recruitment conditions is Belgian nationality. Placements in information centers and university libraries are also a possibility. If students do want to go to Belgium to get a job, they should investigate obtaining a PhD in a Belgian university.

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So what do you think? Would you go work in a foreign library?

39 thoughts on “Oh, the Places You’ll Go (with your MLIS)!

  1. I went to McGill University SIS, an ALA-accredited Canadian school, and now have a nice little career going in the UK. I’m working in a sector that doesn’t really exist in Canada. Moreover, if and when I ever move home, you know all this will sound fantastic to prospective employers.

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    • Interesting – can I ask what sector that is? I’m thinking of pursuing an MLIS degree and I have British citizenship, so I want to explore my options in the UK.

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  2. On the flip-side, you could always think about gaining an international qualification that is considered ‘equivalent’ to the ALA-accredited degree. For example, studying your MIS in New Zealand or MLIS in Australia :) I know of quite a few folks who decided to study in NZ to take advantage of the current exchange rate – not to mention the experience.

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  3. @mclicious and Evelyn, I did contact library associations in those continents, but did not receive any replies. There is a list of library associations around the world here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_library_associations
    http://www.ala.org/offices/iro/intlassocorgconf/libraryassociations

    If you decide to investigate further, maybe you will have better luck. If you do find out any more countries that will accept the ALA accredited degree, let me know, and I will update this post with them. Thanks!

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  4. An alternative to working in a library outside the US is jumping into the international development field. For those who have strong project management skills, this can be an incredibly rewarding field where you get to work with library and information professionals in many countries. I mention this option because – hey! – it’s what I do. There aren’t a huge number of librarian/development crossover opportunities, but there are possibilities.

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    • This is actually my goal. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to combine my MSc in Development with a future MLIS degree.

      I’m glad that there are some opportunities.

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    • Snap, me too! I qualified in Australia and have lived in the Netherlands and the UK, but work with (and in) a number of countries around the world. I agree with Meaghan that PM skills can really set you apart here. I’m considering certifications in PM to formalise my practice which again are globally portable – just like a library degree.

      One thing the article did not mention is that some of the other countries listed may have no further education requirements, but they require work visas. If you are under 30, it will be much easier to get a working holiday visa in the UK, Australia, NZ. Over 30, and you have to jump through a number of hoops for skilled work permits. So get out there!

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  5. I know off hand that Madison is a much more prestigious school and a much better program for a Masters in Library Science but I’d rather go to Milwaukee as my family is there, the larger urban infrastructure we need, and it won’t be such a struggle to get into this school…I’m getting on in years, well 30. I find getting through school at my age starts to take the wind out of ones sails and I don’t want to do some of the nonsense like more extracurriculars…I have family obligations. See, I’m now back in school just beginning to go for my Bachelors after about a ten years absence. It seems so uphill to try Madison for someone like me and at my age and it’s such a small place in the middle of nowhere (truly no offense). My family and I would have a hard time trying to live and work in such a smaller area. I know it sounds like I’ve made up my mind but if someone could possibly reassure me that my choice won’t hurt me in the end? I’d really appreciate any input or advice. Thank you.

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    • @Corporate Lawyer NYC, your choice is your choice. It all depends on where you are most comfortable and where your goals as an aspiring librarian are best met. The School of Information Studies at UW, Milwaukee, is just as accredited by the ALA as the School of Library and Information Studies at UW, Madison is. I wouldn’t worry about which school you go to as much as which school works better for you. You will get a great education at either, but if Milwaukee is where your family, support network, better job prospects live, then, by all means, go to Milwaukee.

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    • And one more thing…you’re only 30! That’s young. I am 34 now and in my first year in grad school. Sure, it’s a little harder than when you were 20, but it’s not bad. Plus, you have much more life experience now to draw from and a better perspective. You’ll be fine.

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      • I just started on my MLIS in January and I will turn 44 this month. It is difficult, but it is never too late to start doing something you love. At first I was worried because by the time I graduate I will be 46 or 47… but you know… I will be 46 or 47 anyway… I might as well be a librarian

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  6. Hi Chris & everyone else,

    I’m interested to know more about where exactly reciprocity goes both ways. I graduated with a CILIP-accredited MLIS degree in 2010 from a UK institution and have spent some time looking at the reciprocity of my degree in the US – I don’t believe it exists. I believe my degree to be ‘equivalent’ to an ALA-accredited degree, but when jobs openings list an ALA-accredited degree as a requirement, I don’t feel able to compete. I’d be interested to know how other people in my situation have dealt with this – do you mention this in your cover letter, and if so, how?

    I’ve been told that this wouldn’t be an issue for some employers, but given the current economic climate, hiring managers are now even more accountable to HR and would have to give a really good reason for wanting to select the candidate without the ALA-accredited degree over and above the many other candidates who more than likely do hold it. What are your thoughts on this? I’m really interested to know how others who have obtained their MLS degree abroad have coped with finding professional positions in the US.

    Thanks,

    Kelly

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    • Hi Kelly,

      I have had the same experience as I have an ‘equivalent’ MLIS from New Zealand. Going from the responses I received to my applications a year or so ago, usually the positions that state ‘must have an ALA accredited MLIS’ only allow just that – however, the roles that state ‘ALA accredited or equivalent’ usually have more of an open mind about hiring overseas applicants.

      I know a lot of institutions have a policy of diversity and hiring the best person for the job, and I have heard of a number of people with ‘equivalent’ MLS degrees successfully gaining employment in the US – so please keep hope and keep applying :) . I have discussed this issue from a NZ perspective on LISNing .

      To be honest, I’ve thought quite a bit about this issue, and in my personal opinion, restricting the job description to ‘ALA accredited only’ reflects a lot about the institutional culture of the hiring library – it’s their prerogative to do so (of course), but in a global market, I’d prefer working for an institution who embraces more diversity :-) If I was hiring for a New Zealand Library, for example, I wouldn’t think of restricting applicants with NZ degrees – but maybe that is just me…

      Best wishes for your job hunting,
      Kirsten

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      • Hi Kirsten,
        Thanks for this information and for sharing your thoughts on the subject – I agree with you on working for an organization/institution that embraces diversity. I know I’m not alone in this, and as you said, this varies according to organization so I’m sure I’ll find something that is a good fit at some point.
        Thanks again,
        -Kelly

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  9. Hi Everybody, I hope someone still sees this post of mine. :)

    I am a 21yo American studying her whole BA in History here in Germany. My goal in the next 1-2 years is to start applying to grad school. Libraries are my absolute passion, so I will be going into Library and Information Sciences for my Masters.

    I am very nervous however, in picking a school. I thought the past few months that ALA was pretty much the only way to go. Now, however, I am hearing about CILIP and Germany’s BIB. I WOULD like to stay in Europe, as I love its history, but I don’t want to lower my chances of finding a job in the USA, should I decide to move back there (with the ALA being picky, and all that).

    What would be the best course of action in this instance, in your opinion?

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    • You should go where you are most comfortable. I am pretty sure that the ALA considers a degree from England equivalent to an ALA masters degree, but I’m not sure about the one from Germany. You need to contact them about that. Contact the person I mentioned in an earlier comment about it. Good luck!

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    • Hi Miri! This is a very late reply, but hopefully still relevant since you said you would be applying in 1-2 years from your post.

      I just wanted to throw out there, maybe you should consider a school that allows you to complete all of your coursework online! I am currently in the MLIS program at Florida State University, and all of my classes are taught online, so you could be anywhere in the world! You just have to keep time zones in mind. I know a lot of other ALA accredited universities also offer distance learning options as well such as Rutgers.

      Anyways, just something to look into if you are interested in staying in Europe, but would like an ALA accredited degree.

      Good luck!

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  12. This article was a great read – thank you so much for taking the time to post it! I’ve recently completed my undergrad in Canada, and have been intently looking into Librarian Science Masters programs in both the States and Canada. This post makes me excited about the possibilities that could face me once I’ve completed my degree! I’m looking for suggestions that anyone may have on where I should go for my masters…is there somewhere specifically I should post this question? Thanks so much to whoever can help!

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  15. Hi, Most employers require an ALA-accredited master’s degree for most professional level positions, and some states require an ALA-accredited degree to work as employee. These certificates are valid in many country.
    Thanks for this post.

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